The Foundations of Liberty

Randy Barnett’s The Structure of Liberty is an ambitious book. The task that Barnett sets himself is to offer an original and persuasive argument for a libertarian political theory, a theory that challenges the legitimacy of the central institutions of the modern regulatory-welfare state. The Structure of Liberty is that rare creature, a book that delivers on most of the promises it makes. Already the book is on its way to becoming a contemporary classic, the successor in interest to Robert Nozick’s Anarchy, State and Utopia as a source of ideas and arguments for the revitalization of an important intellectual tradition that has long stood at the periphery of legal and political theory. No one will be surprised that Barnett’s argument rests on a controversial and contested vision of human interaction. What may come as a shock is the power of this vision to provoke a thoughtful response from readers with ideological and political commitments that are poles apart from those articulated in The Structure of Liberty.